Capitalization Rules for Headlines & Titles

Instructor: T.J. Hoogsteen

T.J. is currently a grade 5 teacher and Vice-Principal. He has a master's degree in Educational Administration and is working toward an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership.

In this lesson you will learn rules for using capital and lower-case letters in titles. We will discuss Title Case and look at examples of words that should and should not be capitalized in a title.

What's in a Title?

What's in a title? Whether it's a book, a term paper, or a newspaper headline, it is likely the first thing potential readers see, and something that could determine if the work is read or not. For this reason, it is important know how to craft a good title and as well as know the capitalization rules that apply to creating titles or headlines.

You can choose from a few different styles for writing titles. Before crafting a title for your document, it's always a good idea is to check the requirements for your work. If you haven't been given any requirements, just pick a style and stick with it. A couple of the more popular styles are Title Case (also called Headline Style) and Sentence Case. The focus of this lesson will be Title Case.

A general rule for using Title Case is to capitalize the first, last, and any important words in the title. Most of the time, words that are shorter than four letters are not capitalized, unless, of course, the short word is the first or last word in the title.

Capitalized Words in a Title

Certain categories of words will always be capitalized in a title and some categories of words will not be. Generally, nouns (man, truck, Statue of Liberty), verbs (run, jump, skip), adjectives (slimy, small, fast), adverbs (slowly, quickly, noisily), pronouns (he, she, they), and subordinating conjunctions (because, that, since) will be capitalized in a title.

Non-Capitalized Words in a Title

On the other hand, articles, coordinating conjunctions, and prepositions that are fewer than four letters long will not be capitalized when writing a title. If all else fails and you don't have a reference guide to help, a good rule to follow is to capitalize all words in a title except for the following: a, an, the, at, by, for, in, up, on, or, and, of, as, but, and nor. Again, this 'trick' holds true unless they are the beginning or ending words in the title.


Let's look at a few examples of possible titles for practice.

Example 1

Let's say you decided to entitle your document with the following words: baseball player breaks record. Which words would you capitalize? If you guessed, 'All of them' you'd be right. Your title would look like:

Baseball Player Breaks Record

All of the words are capitalized because each word is in one of the categories of words that are capitalized in titles; the title has three nouns and one verb.

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